You don't have to invest in fancy equipment or join a gym to get into the shape of your dreams. Instead, you can walk or step your way toward good health. The primary difference between walking and stair-stepping a mile is that stepping is a more intense form of exercise.
Revving Up the Intensity
Stair-stepping is a more intense form of exercise than walking, which means your heart rate will increase more rapidly and you'll breathe harder. According to Harvard Health Publications, climbing stairs is twice as intense as taking a brisk walk, and 50 percent more intense than walking at a steep incline. The intensity means you'll get a stronger cardiovascular workout, and will likely get into good physical shape more quickly.
Melting Away the Fat
Because stepping is more intense than walking, you'll burn more calories if you step your way toward fitness. A 155-pound person will burn around 223 calories stair-stepping for 30 minutes, but walking 3.5 mph burns 149 calories in the same time period for a person of the same weight, according to Harvard Health Publications. You'll need to burn 3,500 calories for every pound you want to lose.
Stepping Toward Muscle Development
When you do a step-based exercise, your lower body moves in an upward motion. This challenges more muscles in your lower body, according to personal trainer William Sukala, and will result in more muscle development in your hips, thighs and calves. Both walking and stepping provide you with an aerobic workout, but if you're hoping to see muscle development in your legs, butt and hips, stair-stepping is the way to go.
Every Exercise Has Risks
No exercise is completely without risk, but walking is safe for most people. Stair-stepping, because of its more challenging nature, poses more health risks. If you have vertigo or difficulties with balance, you're at an increased risk of falling. The repetitive movements can also hurt tender joints, particularly if you step forcefully.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.